Stop Highway Boondoggles

More and more of us are looking for better transportation options. Yet we’re still spending billions to expand roads and build new highways every year, even as other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. Across the country there are countless proposed highway projects that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. We need your help to stop them.

America is in a long-term transportation funding crisis. Our roads, bridges and transit systems are falling into disrepair. Demand for public transportation, as well as safe biking and walking routes, is growing. Traditional sources of transportation revenue, especially the gas tax, are not keeping pace with the needs. Even with the recent passage of a five-year federal transportation bill, the future of transportation funding remains uncertain.

In the past, we’ve identified proposed highway projects across the country that illustrate the need for a fresh approach to transportation funding. In our two reports, Highway Boondoggles and Highway Boondoggles 2, we’ve picked out 23 of the worst examples of irresponsible transportation spending, which combined, would cost billions in scarce transportation dollars. These projects are either intended to address problems that do not exist, or will have grave and destructive impacts on surrounding communities. And they represent just a sample of the many questionable highway projects across the country that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build, and many more billions over the course of upcoming decades to maintain.

Americans’ transportation needs are changing, so why aren’t America’s transportation spending priorities?

State governments continue to spend billions on highway expansion projects that fail to solve congestion 

In Texas, for example, a $2.8 billion project widened Houston’s Katy Freeway to 26 lanes, making it the widest freeway in the world. But commutes got longer after its 2012 opening: By 2014 morning commuters were spending 30 percent more time in their cars, and afternoon commuters were spending 55 percent more time in their cars.

Or consider that a $1 billion widening of I-405 in Los Angeles that disrupted commutes for five years — including two complete shutdowns of a 10-mile stretch of one of the nation’s busiest highways — had no demonstrable success in reducing congestion. Just five months after the widened road reopened in 2014, the rush-hour trip took longer than it had while construction was still ongoing. 

Highway expansion saddles future generations with expensive maintenance needs, at a time when America’s existing highways are already crumbling 

Between 2009 and 2011, states spent $20.4 billion annually for expansion or construction projects totaling just 1 percent of the country’s road miles, according to Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. During the same period, they spent just $16.5 billion on repair and preservation of existing highways — the other 99 percent of American roads. 

What's more, according to the Federal Highway Administration, the United States added more lane-miles of roads between 2005 and 2013 — a period in which per-capita vehicle miles traveled declined — than in the two decades between 1984 and 2004.

Federal, state and local governments spent roughly as much money on highway expansion projects in 2010 as they did a decade earlier, despite lower per-capita driving.

Our list of highway boondoggles

We’ve targeted some of America’s biggest highway boondoggles, and are working to stop them from moving forward. Just as importantly, we plan to use these examples as a way to spark a serious conversation about making smarter transportation choices, and giving us more options to get around.  

Click here to see our list of highway boondoggles

Americans’ long-term travel needs are changing 

In 2014, transit ridership in the U.S. hit its highest point since 1956. And recent years have seen the emergence of new ways to get around, including carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing, and the influence of those new options is only beginning to be felt.

According to an Urban Land Institute study in 2015, more than half of Americans — and nearly two-thirds of Millennials, the country’s largest generation — want to live “in a place where they do not need to use a car very often.” Similar trends exist for older adults. An AARP study showed older adults in general put the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and local investment in public transportation in their top five priorities for their communities.

Moving America forward 

It’s time to put an end to highway boondoggles, so we are working with concerned citizens, community groups, policy makers and elected officials to send these wasteful highway projects back to the drawing board.

Our lives, our communities, and how we get around are constantly changing. It’s well past time for our transportation spending priorities to reflect these changes, rather than the outdated assumptions that so many of them are based upon. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping these highway boondoggles is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Victory: Colorado officially joins Zero Emission Vehicle program

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) officially adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program Friday, a move that takes aim at reducing ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt the program. 

 

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Blog Post | Transportation

Clear Benefits to Adopting Zero Emission Program | Danny Katz

Electric vehicles don’t just promise to tackle our air quality problems. They will also bring additional consumer benefits from lower fuel costs and fewer maintenance expenses.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

6,201 Coloradans Call for Electric Vehicle Standards Ahead of Vote this Week

On Monday, clean car advocates announced that 6,201 Coloradans are calling on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, a critical step that Colorado needs to take to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis. The AQCC will begin a public hearing on the rule starting Tuesday, with testimony open to the public from 12:30 to 3pm and 6 to 8pm. They will vote on whether to adopt the standards on Thursday, August 15th or Friday, August 16th.   

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center | Transportation

Growing Greener

By combining policies that encourage compact development, sustainable transportation and green building practices, Boulder can help to address global warming, improve the quality of our air and water, and protect Colorado’s undeveloped areas from sprawling development.

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

On Bustang's 4th anniversary, 107 elected officials show support for continued growth

Ridership on Bustang, Colorado’s statewide bus service, surged another 23% in its fourth year of operation, marking the fourth year in a row ridership grew on its core routes that connect communities along I-25 and I-70. To mark Bustang’s fourth anniversary, CoPIRG Foundation staff delivered a giant birthday card signed by 107 local elected officials congratulating the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which operates Bustang, on its success and demonstrating support for its continued expansion.

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Pages

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Victory: Colorado officially joins Zero Emission Vehicle program

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) officially adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program Friday, a move that takes aim at reducing ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt the program. 

 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

6,201 Coloradans Call for Electric Vehicle Standards Ahead of Vote this Week

On Monday, clean car advocates announced that 6,201 Coloradans are calling on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, a critical step that Colorado needs to take to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis. The AQCC will begin a public hearing on the rule starting Tuesday, with testimony open to the public from 12:30 to 3pm and 6 to 8pm. They will vote on whether to adopt the standards on Thursday, August 15th or Friday, August 16th.   

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

On Bustang's 4th anniversary, 107 elected officials show support for continued growth

Ridership on Bustang, Colorado’s statewide bus service, surged another 23% in its fourth year of operation, marking the fourth year in a row ridership grew on its core routes that connect communities along I-25 and I-70. To mark Bustang’s fourth anniversary, CoPIRG Foundation staff delivered a giant birthday card signed by 107 local elected officials congratulating the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which operates Bustang, on its success and demonstrating support for its continued expansion.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

CO clean air commission votes unanimously to consider Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rule

Today, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to begin consideration of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard. If adopted, the ZEV program would be one of the biggest actions Colorado could take to reduce air pollution, tackle climate change, save consumers money, and increase the number of electric vehicles available at Colorado dealerships. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

The State Legislature just sped up Colorado’s transition to electric vehicles

While the federal government stalls out on clean transportation, environmental, public health and consumer advocates came together Tuesday to celebrate major progress on electric vehicles at the State Legislature, and to call attention to the next major step Colorado can take to speed up vehicle electrification. Advocates called on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to begin consideration of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program this Friday. Adopting the ZEV program is one of the single biggest actions Colorado could take to reduce air pollution, tackle climate change, save consumers money, and increase the number of electric vehicles available at Colorado dealerships. 

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Preparing The Way For 21st Century Transportation

In 2009, CoPIRG worked with a broad coalition to secure $16 billion of federal stimulus money for transit projects that will create jobs.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center | Transportation

Growing Greener

By combining policies that encourage compact development, sustainable transportation and green building practices, Boulder can help to address global warming, improve the quality of our air and water, and protect Colorado’s undeveloped areas from sprawling development.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

America's infrastructure is in rough shape. Many of our roads, bridges, and transit systems are aging and in need of repair. Yet, year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars' worth of new and expanded highways that do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from repairs and 21st century priorities. This report profiles nine highway projects that epitomize the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air

Buses play a key role in in our nation’s transportation system, carrying millions of children daily to and from school and moving millions of Americans each day around our cities. Buses reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, make our communities more livable and sustainable, and provide transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. Yet, the majority of America’s buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International | Transportation

A Guide to Car-Free Skiing in Colorado

For years, the only real way for people to get from the Denver region up to the ski slopes has been to drive their personal car.  The good news is that over the last few winter seasons, options for getting to the slopes without driving your personal car have increased and smart phone technologies have made ride sharing and carpooling an increasingly efficient option.

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Pages

Blog Post | Transportation

Clear Benefits to Adopting Zero Emission Program | Danny Katz

Electric vehicles don’t just promise to tackle our air quality problems. They will also bring additional consumer benefits from lower fuel costs and fewer maintenance expenses.

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Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The sad reality of car dependence: 'Denver paved over paradise and put up a parking lot'

Denver draws thousands of visitors and new residents every year, but the city is slowly paving over what makes it special.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The sad reality of car dependence: 'Denver paved over paradise and put up a parking lot'

Denver draws thousands of visitors and new residents every year, but the city is slowly paving over what makes it special.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

More cars, trucks, buses will be electric following action by Gov. Polis

Gov. Polis backed up his promise to put our state on a path to a cleaner, healthier future with action. On Jan. 17, the governor signed his first executive order to speed up the transition...

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Pages

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) officially adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program Friday, a move that takes aim at reducing ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt the program. 

 

Blog Post

Electric vehicles don’t just promise to tackle our air quality problems. They will also bring additional consumer benefits from lower fuel costs and fewer maintenance expenses.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

On Monday, clean car advocates announced that 6,201 Coloradans are calling on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, a critical step that Colorado needs to take to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis. The AQCC will begin a public hearing on the rule starting Tuesday, with testimony open to the public from 12:30 to 3pm and 6 to 8pm. They will vote on whether to adopt the standards on Thursday, August 15th or Friday, August 16th.   

Report | CoPIRG Foundation, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center

By combining policies that encourage compact development, sustainable transportation and green building practices, Boulder can help to address global warming, improve the quality of our air and water, and protect Colorado’s undeveloped areas from sprawling development.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

Ridership on Bustang, Colorado’s statewide bus service, surged another 23% in its fourth year of operation, marking the fourth year in a row ridership grew on its core routes that connect communities along I-25 and I-70. To mark Bustang’s fourth anniversary, CoPIRG Foundation staff delivered a giant birthday card signed by 107 local elected officials congratulating the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which operates Bustang, on its success and demonstrating support for its continued expansion.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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